I guess I am a bit old fashioned – and it’s not just the tweed suits, cravats and bow ties! I still believe in good manners and one of the things I am always aware of is being too informal with people I’ve just met. Don’t get me wrong, I like people and getting to know them, and I am very informal with my friends and those I know and trust, but I am cautious when I meet someone new. I try to be mindful of what they want and what they are comfortable with as I get to know them.

First name terms

I don’t like it when strangers, particularly if they are approaching me for business, use my first name on the phone until I give them permission to use it. That’s just me. The point is though that what I think and feel should be respected.

So when I am meeting people in business for the first time, I will always try to gauge someone’s preferences.

This gets tricky when you are dealing with groups of people in business; say you are sending them an e-marketing campaign. We all know that personalisation is important but it has to be done with sensitivity.

Google’s not my friend

On my last birthday I logged into Google to find that my home page had been personalised – ‘Happy Birthday Donald’, with lots of illustrations of birthday cakes and treats. To be honest I wasn’t comfortable with that. I know they have my date of birth (and reams of data about me and my habits besides) but here they were being personal and I just wasn’t feeling the love. Yes, we have a relationship, but it’s not personal – they supply me with computer services. Yes, I rely on them heavily but I don’t feel they ‘know’ me. I do have business relationships that are much more ‘personal’ with some of my customers and our Seamless Partners for example. Business relationships can be personal but not always.

What makes it personal?

Just because you have personal data on someone does not mean you have a personal relationship with them. The nature and context of that relationship has to determine how you conduct yourself. And how you use that data. So using birthdays may not be the best thing in mass marketing but congratulating a close business contact that you know, on a special occasion if you are talking to them on the phone, or by sending a handwritten card, seems to me to be entirely appropriate.

Do I sound like Scrooge at Christmas?

Does this sound like ‘Bah Humbug’ to you? Is it just me that feels like this? Are you happy for people to use personal stuff like birthdays to market to you? And what are your limits? When do you feel that companies have overstepped the mark? I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you manage the subtleties of personalistion in marketing communications.



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